Local News

Judge Rules Out Death Penalty in Woman's Murder Trial

Posted June 5, 2007 7:04 p.m. EDT

— Durham prosecutors failed Tuesday to persuade a judge that they should be able to ask a jury to make the defendant in a Durham murder trial the fifth woman on North Carolina’s Death Row.

Christy Crittenton, prosecutors charge, is a cold and calculated gold digger who helped three others kill 71-year-old Edwin Knowles last July. Knowles was found pistol-whipped and shot to death in his Bahama home.

“I would argue circumstance show she knew what was going on and what was going to happen,” Assistant District Attorney David Saacks told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson.

Not so, defense attorney Jay Ferguson told Hudson.

“She wasn't even in the house when the shooting occurred,” Ferguson said.

Both sides agreed Knowles was Crittenton’s sugar daddy. Ferguson said she visited him only to borrow money, while Saacks said her visit was about robbery and turned into murder.

Even though Crittenton didn't fire the shot that struck Knowles, she led the trigger man to his home, the prosecutor told Hudson.

Saacks argued that Crittenton's criminal background should be considered, including her 1993 conviction for killing a former Durham police officer. In the end, however, Hudson ruled that there was not enough evidence to support the death penalty in the case.

If convicted, Crittenton will face an automatic life sentence instead.

Prosecutors indicated they still plan to seek the death penalty against the shooter in Knowles’ death.

The last time prosecutors sought the death penalty against a woman was when Barbara Stager was convicted in 1989 of first-degree murder for a 1988 killing and sentenced to die. She received a new trial, however, and was given a life sentence instead in 1993.